Opeth – Watershed (2008)
First off I’d like to quote Akerfeldt in the interview from www.faceculture.nl :
“Everything we’ve done in the past like what you say, what you call the roots… we kind of bring it with us, but I don’t like… I wanna have a clean sleight with every new album, like start with a fresh start and not try to make a similar album… but we have our style.”
It’s a very good concept for a band, making sort of a fresh start every new CD and bringing in new ideas, influences and overall change the sound a bit, yet its also very risky for a band, especially Opeth where a lot of fans put high expectations in every new CD (like me). Like in every album you can feel that it is Opeth. However the context, the atmosphere changes heavily (Take for example: Blackwater Park vs Ghost Reveries). You could compare it to having the same meal, with the same flavor, and the same preparation. The location, the people involved around you while eating it in the place and the general atmosphere surrounding you change. The same goes for Opeth I think: The sounds and style are “opethian” but everything else changes.
The new album is called Watershed, it comes in two versions: One with only the songs listed below, and one with three bonus songs (covers). A special track Mellotron Heart was only available through a special promotional CD with a limited number of copies. The sound has been recorded in 5.1.
We start off with the first song “Coil”, a very serene but dark song but without distorted guitars. Its all clean vocals and clean guitars, featuring also a warm female voice, Nathalie Lorichs. Once again Mr.Akerfeldt proves that a song can be very beautiful, clean and harmonious, but also have a dark, evil side, without using grunts nor distorted guitars. It reminds me a lot of the Damnation album, yet its more direct and less atmospheric.
The second song is Heir Apparent. We’re back to the more classical approach and Opeth sound: Distorted guitars playing complex riffs with a lot of progressive aspects involved. The slower passages have a very obscure and dark feeling coming from them, and after the clean guitar part I felt like the first time I heard Demon of the Fall back on My Arms You Hearse: blown away buy the aggressive nature of the sound and the vocals. This song reminds me a lot of a mix out of all the albums in a 9 minute compact track. Its very diverse, heavy, brutal, and beautiful at the same time. The keys remind me of Baying of the hounds from Ghost Reveries, kicking in and brining a unique flavor. The song itself isn’t music anymore its more like a real piece of art. Its so complex, versatile and unique you need to hear it several times to find everything. Favorite song on this one.
Now for… the Lotus Eater! This song gave me such a good laugh right from the start: I misheard the vocals saying “Liquid is in your throat, with Opeth Deliiight!”. I immediately had a commercial in mind with a black can of alcoholic brewage with the logo Opeth Delight written in golden letters. But let’s come back to the track shall we? Astonishing track, a lot of dark passages with heavy distorted riffs and lyrics combined with melodic slow passages featuring a very atmospheric touch. At the end the style changes to a more progressive jazz-like part, followed up by a increasingly climaxing end. The end itself reveals another kind of secret message. I always wonder, what does Akerfeldt want to show us? We’ll never know I guess…
The next song Burden brings a bit of a serene relief out of all this complexity and timeless brutality. The vocals are heavily emotional and the song itself would be great as an ending song, especially after the beautiful melancholic atmosphere it creates. However it’s a bit repetitive from the point of view in musical theme, the variations remain around the main melody. It’s a masterpiece nonetheless, and the last touch Akerfeldt and Frederick added to the ending of the song makes it even more unique. I won’t spoil it for you, listen to it.
The fifth song, Porcelain heart, is another masterpiece: the dark, obscure atmosphere it weaves around the listener spirals into a climax involving more and more musical elements and aspects. Then comes the clean break, bearing a dark message, best you experience it for yourself. Very dark and awesome track, yet until the climax is reached it tends to be a bit repetitive.
Now comes in my opinion the big crash with the last two songs:
Hessian Peel brings in a lot of new influences, flavours and ideas, with more direct atmospheric passages, which create a complex musical feeling. The message behind the song is dark and heavy, but I don’t see the necessity making it 11.25 minutes long. Its not really an Opeth Opus song like Blackwater Park, The Moor or even Deliverence, every time I listened to it I thought it was two songs, the clash in the middle of the song is too much “ending-introduction” like. Overall it’s an acceptable track but not really what I hoped for in a long track from Opeth.
Hex omega is a very diverse song, but I don’t find it fitting to be an ending song. Overall the ideas are repetitive, it’s kind of like you would take parts from the rest of the album and make a song to fill up the CD. Its my personal feeling, sorry if you think I’m wrong its just how I feel.
Overall feeling? Well it’s a good album, very innovative, progressive and it reaches a new level: This unique flavor and mix of styles and music hasn’t been done by anyone yet, its more like a piece of art. The changes between ideas and riffs are executed flawlessly and the harmony prevails. The sound and mix is very refined but not overproduced, its like the steaks I want to eat if you catch my drift. However it tends to be repetitive and some songs are just overcharged with too much information, the changes are sometimes too fast (Heir apparent), and at other places the musical theme is kept up during an entire song (Burden).
But what I miss most are the old atmospheric parts like in Master’s apprentices from Deliverance and from Blackwater Park CD. The new style is pretty neat, but its somehow unsatisfying. Yes I’ll rest my judgement upon that word… unsatisfying. The album has a lot, if not too much, but maybe I’m not really ready for this kind of turn in Opeth’s music.
The three bonus tracks on the limited edition of the CD are: “Derelict Herds” “Bridge of Sighs” “Den ständiga resan”. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I’ll do in the future when i have a bit more time. Cheers.
Musically I’d give it an 7.5 out of 10, because it still is a hell of a lot complex but for really complex music other bands are ahead of them.
Artistically and from an innovative point of view I’d give it a 10 out of 10. It’s the first album of this kind, and it cannot be compared I think to anything else till now. Chapeau Opeth, your art is great.
Personally I’d give it a 5,5 out of 10, it didn’t impress me in any way and it didn’t give me the “goose bumps”, which I only get when I’m listening to a very good album or something which just sticks into my brain. It was as I said before, unsatisfying (for Opeth).
PS: I think Akerfeldt is kind of addicted to mellotrons don’t you think? Somehow I get this weird feeling he wont stop putting it EVERYWHERE….. Urgh he’s overdoing it.
~ by rahjas on June 24, 2008.